New European Version: Old Testament

Deeper commentary on this chapter

Audio talks on this chapter:


Video presentations on this chapter:


Other material relevant to this chapter:

Jacob's Wrestling With God

Jacob's Name Change

 Jacob and Esau In The Last Days

Hear this chapter read:



About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

CHAPTER 32 Jan. 19 
Jacob Prepares to Meet Esau 
Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2When he saw them, Jacob said, This is God’s army. He called the name of that place Mahanaim. 3Jacob sent messengers in front of him to Esau, his brother, to the land of Seir, the field of Edom. 4He commanded them, saying, This is what you shall tell my lord, Esau: ‘This is what your servant, Jacob, says. I have lived as a foreigner with Laban, and stayed until now. 5I have cattle, donkeys, flocks, male servants, and female servants. I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favour in your sight’. 6The messengers returned to Jacob, saying, We came to your brother Esau. Not only that, but he comes to meet you, and four hundred men with him. 7Then Jacob was greatly afraid and was distressed. He divided the people who were with him, and the flocks, and the herds, and the camels, into two companies; 8and he said, If Esau comes to the one company, and strikes it, then the company which is left will escape. 9Jacob said, God of my father Abraham, and God of my father Isaac, Yahweh, who said to me, ‘Return to your country, and to your relatives, and I will do you good’, 10I am not worthy of the least of all the loving kindnesses, and of all the truth, which You have shown to Your servant; for with just my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I have become two companies. 11Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau: for I fear him, lest he come and strike me, and the mothers with the children. 12You said, ‘I will surely do you good, and make your seed as the sand of the sea, which can’t be numbered because there are so many’. 13He lodged there that night, and took from that which he had with him, a present for Esau, his brother: 14two hundred female goats and twenty male goats, two hundred ewes and twenty rams, 15thirty milk camels and their colts, forty cows, ten bulls, twenty female donkeys and ten foals. 16He delivered them into the hands of his servants, every herd by itself, and said to his servants, Pass over before me, and put a space between herd and herd. 17He commanded the foremost, saying, When Esau, my brother, meets you, and asks you, saying, ‘Whose are you? Where are you going? Whose are these before you?’ 18Then you shall say, ‘They are your servant, Jacob’s. It is a present sent to my lord, Esau. Behold, he also is behind us’. 19He commanded also the second, and the third, and all that followed the herds, saying, This is how you shall speak to Esau, when you find him. 20You shall say, ‘Not only that, but behold, your servant, Jacob, is behind us’. For, he said, I will appease him with the present that goes before me, and afterward I will see his face. Perhaps he will accept me. 21So the present passed over before him, and he himself lodged that night in the camp.
Jacob Wrestles with an Angel 
22He rose up that night, and took his two wives, and his two handmaids, and his eleven sons, and passed over the ford of the Jabbok. 23He took them, and sent them over the stream, and sent over that which he had. 24Jacob was left alone, and wrestled with a man there until the breaking of the day. 25When he saw that he didn’t prevail against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh, and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was strained, as he wrestled. 26The man said, Let me go, for the day breaks. Jacob said, I won’t let You go, unless You bless me. 27He said to him, What is your name? He said, Jacob. 28He said, Your name will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have fought with God and with men, and have prevailed. 29Jacob asked him, Please tell me Your name. He said, Why is it that you ask what My name is? He blessed him there. 30Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for, he said, I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. 31The sun rose on him as he passed over Peniel, and he limped because of his thigh. 32Therefore the children of Israel don’t eat the sinew of the hip, which is on the hollow of the thigh, to this day, because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew of the hip.


32:2 'Mahanaim' means 'two camps'. The army of Jacob's enemies was matched by an invisible army of Angels which were on Jacob's side, weak in faith as he was. We must remember that each life crisis, each time we seem hopelessly outnumbered, is in fact a Mahanaim situation for us. 
32:4 Wrestled- The Angel came to Jacob with the desire to kill him, as Esau (whom the Angel represented) approached him in the same spirit. It was by Jacob's desperate clinging on to God, his pleading, his intense prayer (Hos. 12:4) that he changed God's intention, after the pattern of Moses in later years. We know from Hos. 12 that Jacob became aware that he was wrestling with an Angel, not just a man. His wrestling is therefore to be understood as prayer and pleading, although doubtless it started as a physical struggle with an unknown stranger, who he later recognized as an Angel. Jacob wrestled / struggled in prayer with the Angel. Jacob's night of wrestling is a cameo of the experience of all who would be counted among the Israel of God- for “there He spoke with us” (Hos. 12:4). The Bible presents prayer as a struggle, not something we do half asleep in the comfort of our beds (Job 33:13; Heb. 12:4; Rom. 15:30; Col. 4:12). Through this, Jacob learnt the real import of the promises. He realized that all his life, he had been wrestling with God, his Angel, and he now came to beg his God for the blessing of forgiveness, implying he had repented. The Hebrew for “wrestle” can mean both to wrestle and also to cling on to. He started wrestling, and ended up clinging on to the Angel, desperately begging for salvation and forgiveness. His great physical strength (remember how he moved the huge stone from the well, 29:2) was redirected into a spiritual clinging on to the promises of forgiveness and salvation. And this will be our pattern of growth too.  
32:10 The Hebrew word for “staff” here suggests a magical, pagan stick associated with fertility, coming from a root meaning 'to germinate'. The same word occurs when we read that Jacob put the animals before the “rods”; it seems this is an intensive plural for 'the great rod', i.e. his staff. Yet, fascinatingly enough, at the very point when Jacob leaves home to start his wilderness journey with only (in his eyes) his pagan staff to bring him good luck, God as it were takes a snapshot of him, and asks Israel to leave Egypt with a staff in their hands- a strange request, surely, unless it was intended to drive their minds back to Jacob, asking them to emulate his example.   Jacob and idolatry go together. But now Jacob begins to realize that all he had in life was from God, and not from his staff.
32:31 Jacob’s limping would’ve reminded him for the rest of his life of his brokenness and dependence upon God’s grace to walk life’s journey.